One of my latest guilty pleasures is binge-watching shows about cults. I've been watching "Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath," and "Escaping Polygamy." There are so many fascinating and compelling things about these cults. One of the most disturbing is the incredible charismatic draw of the cults' leaders. These "prophets" have some incredibly devoted followers. But the kinds of things these prophets demand of their followers is, frankly, abhorrent, abusive, controlling, and disgusting. I am absolutely riveted by the stories of people who let the abuses happen because they believe their eternal souls depend on it.
When Jesus arrived on the scene, people didn't know what to make of him. They wondered if he might be the prophet, John, raised from the dead. They thought he might be a reincarnation of their ancient prophet, Elijah. Maybe he was a brand new prophet sent by God. Jesus was also charismatic and compelling. I can imagine it would have been difficult to wade through the many voices to hear what Jesus had to say.
The main difference between Jesus' voice and the others (besides the obvious, that Jesus was divine), was, and is the content of Jesus' message. While the prophets traditionally (and the false prophets of today) spoke of hellfire and damnation, consequences for misbehaving, control, and blind obedience, Jesus spoke of freedom, acceptance, generosity, gratitude, and love. What a vastly different message! This is how I try to discern the voices today. Are the voices demanding conformity, intolerance, or elitism? Or are the voices inviting surrender, acceptance, and love? As long as I apply these filters, the voices become less difficult to discern.
Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen. Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he tried to see him.